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Long-term dynamics of leaf and root decomposition and nitrogen release in a grey alder (Alnus incana (L.) Moench) and silver birch (Betula pendula Roth.) stands

Morozov, Gunnar, Aosaar, Jürgen, Varik, Mats, Becker, Hardo, Lõhmus, Krista, Padari, Allar, Aun, Kristiina, Uri, Veiko
Scandinavian journal of forest research 2019 v.34 no.1 pp. 12-25
Alnus incana, Betula pendula, fine roots, leaves, nitrogen, organic matter, plant litter, trees, Estonia
The decomposition of the leaf litter, fine roots (d < 2 mm) and coarser roots (2 ≤ d < 5 mm) of grey alder and silver birch, as well as of α-cellulose sheets using the litterbag method was studied in two experimental stands on Podzoluvisol soils in Southern Estonia. For both tree species, the coarser roots decomposed faster than the fine roots, (p < .05), tree species did not affect the decomposition rate of the roots (p > .5). The nitrogen (N) input to soil from aboveground litter was multiple times higher than the N flux from roots. The remaining relative ash-free mass of the leaves of grey alder and silver birch after three and a half years was similar. After 11 years the remaining relative ash-free mass of the fine and coarser roots of grey alder still accounted for around 10% of the initial value. For silver birch the remaining value was around 20% after 9 years. The litterbag method to underestimates in fertile soils the decomposition of organic matter and thus did not reflect the actual dynamics of decomposition.